HC Deb 23 June 1982 vol 26 cc282-5
4. Mr. Cyril Smith

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the current levels of rates for local authorities in the North-West of England.

8. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what have been the latest levels of rate increase in the North-West region.

The Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services (Mr. Tom King)

The average general rate poundage in local authorities in the North-West region is 177p. Average general rate increases in April were just over 14 per cent.

Details for the individual authorities will be circulated in the Official Report.

Mr. Smith

Does the Minister agree that the rate increase for the Cheshire county council is 18.6 per cent? If so—I see that the Minister agrees-will he explain why, in a party political broadcast on 5 May, the Secretary of State stated that, because of the SDP-Liberal Alliance and the Labour group in Cheshire, the rate increase was 32.5 per cent?

If not for the sake of honesty, at least for the record, does not the Minister consider that he should now agree that it was 18.6 per cent? Is he aware, first, that there are no SDP councillors on the Cheshire county council, and, secondly, that Liberal councillors voted with Conservative councillors against Labour councillors' rates proposals?

Mr. King

I should like to see the figures that the hon. Gentleman is quoting. The figure that I have here is 18.6 per cent. I am not sure whether he was quoting from the original rate increase or the supplementary rate increase. The Liberal Party is not the only party capable of using figures to suit its purposes.

If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was seeking to make the point that Conservative authorities generally have lower rate increases than authorities of other political persuasions, looking at the overall pattern that would be correct.

Mr. Alton

Does the Minister accept that, instead of criticising Liberal-controlled councils, such as Liverpool city council, which had an 8 per cent. increase in its rates this year, it would be far better if his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State were to restore the massive cuts in the rate support grant than to crow about Liberal or Labour authorities having to grapple with the problems that he has created? Liverpool has sustained cuts of about £63 million over the past four years, which have resulted in massive reductions in service.

Mr. King

With respect, I shall not take lectures from the hon. Gentleman on how to help the city of Liverpool, nor shall I condemn my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Nobody could have done more to alleviate the problems of Merseyside. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would take the opportunity to rise to his feet and pay tribute to the work that has been done.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

Even if the Liberals on the Cheshire county council prevented the realisation of the Labour party's worst intentions, does my right hon. Friend agree that the rate increase of 18.6 per cent. is well above the level of inflation and that Cheshire ratepayers are now paying for having been stupid enough to put in a Labour authority?

Mr. King

My right hon. and learned Friend is correct to draw attention to the fact that in those counties controlled by Conservative authorities rates increased on average by 11 per cent., in Labour-controlled authorities by, on average, 31 per cent. and in counties that were unfortunate enough to end up with a mish-mash of Opposition parties, rates increased on average by 21 per cent.

Hon. Members

Eight per cent.

Mr. Oakes

I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) that it is a question not of who is in control of a council but of that council's problems. Does the Minister agree that the rate support grant arrangements do not accord with the problems of a council, whether that council is Labour-controlled, Liberal-controlled or Conservative-controlled? That is the fault of the rate support grant.

Mr. King

It would be the biggest delusion to blame the problems faced by several authorities on difficulties in the rate support grant. The problems faced by the vast majority of authorities are those of management, organisation and the need for determination to achieve value for money. That is a high priority.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the ratepayers of the North-West should be very pleased that they are not in the GLC area? Unless something is done to curb the financial irresponsibility of that lunatic body, and particularly the way in which it conducts London Transport, the burden will fall on, among others, the taxpayers of the North-West.

Mr. King

I am aware that on walking out of the Chamber and looking across the river I see a record of the number of unemployed in London. As the figure increases, it will become the most telling epitaph to the GLC's disastrous policies. As a result of its rating and transport policies, it is clearly driving both jobs and people out of London.

Following is the information:

Area General rate percentage increase (1981–82 to April 1982) General rate poundage (p) from April 1982
Greater Manchester
Bolton 15.7 162.08
Bury 13.1 189.50
Manchester 11.2 228.20
Oldham 14.7 164.14
Rochdale 20.7 215.50
Salford 13.7 157.50
Stockport 16.0 157.60
Tameside 19.0 191.00
Trafford 18.4 154.54
Wigan 16.7 196.04
Knowsley 24.3 190.54
Liverpool 14.4 197.97
St. Helens 9.5 194.77
Sefton 23.6 165.36
Wirral 17.9 181.50
Chester 17.7 172.80
Congleton 16.8 166.30
Crewe and Nantwich 16.8 170.53
Ellesmere Port and Neston 15.6 170.40
Halton 15.8 171.43
Macclesfield 17.2 164.40
Vale Royal 16.2 168.93
Warrington 18.0 173.36
Blackburn 3.6 163.53
Blackpool 5.6 151.50
Burnley 4.4 166.55
Chorley 5.7 140.25
Fylde 3.0 142.42
Hyndburn 6.9 159.32

Area General rate percentage increase (1981–82 to April 1982) General rate poundage (p) from April 1982
Lancaster 3.1 150.00
Pendle 4.0 154.48
Preston 5.3 150.05
Ribble Valley 4.3 148.88
Rossendale 3.2 159.71
South Ribble 4.9 140.61
West Lancashire 4.7 143.08
Wyre 3.6 142.97